Jimi ‘Posterboy’ Manuwa is in a jovial mood as I catch up with him during his 10 week training camp preparing for his latest opponent, Nikita Krylov, whom he’ll face on the 27th February 2016, as the UFC return to London’s 02 Arena. The 35 year old is rolling with his Nova Forca team, and it’s clear the now jiu jitsu purple belt is revelling in his improved ground game.
“Posterboy” is coming of a devastating KO loss to Anthony Johnson; and while it is definitely no shame in being defeated by one of the planet’s heaviest hitting mixed martial artists, I’m keen to find out if he sees the match up with Krylov as a shot at redemption, and an opportunity to bury an uncomfortable memory. “I’ve put my last fight behind me.” Manuwa assures me, “I’ve taken a lot from that fight all of the things I have done..not just in the fight but everything from my training, nutrition everything. In this camp I’ve been working on new and even old things I’ve left behind.”
The Ukranian, Krylov, a 23 year old who brings to the party a three fight win streak and a knack for submissions- Manuwa’s Kryptonite- however it should be noted that in as many competitive bouts, Manuwa has never been submitted. After previously stating he ‘only wants the top guys in the division’ Krylov will get his wish in Manuwa.
Krylov will be looking to maintain the head of steam he has been building of late, his last three fights not going past the first round. One thing is certain, Manuwa is certainly preparing to make a statement and an example of sorts with his next fight, returning things to a level that is more familiar to him. Instead of re-inventing himself, it’s clear he wants to reaffirm a pattern he has not displayed in a while. “I’m looking forward to getting another KO on my record. I’m taking things back to my KO and TKO ways.”
Manuwa is acutely aware that Krylov- to some unheard off- ranked outside of the top 10 UFC light-heavyweights, in the eyes of his detractors, might be seen as a step backwards and an unworthy opponent. “You can say that about me Vs Anthony Johnson or Gustaffson, it works both ways. They didn’t have any benefit to fighting me but no win is a sure win, everyone is in the UFC for a reason. People might say they haven’t heard of Krylov, but it doesn’t matter where he is in the ranking, I see him as a dangerous fighter and taking him very seriously.”
His return to the Octagon will come a week after his 36th birthday, an age at which many fighters are looking to the future and life beyond the cage. While his business acumen away from the cage is clear- having amassed a small portfolio of profitable companies ranging from a skip hire firm to a prestige car hire outlet- the 36 year old has no plans to leave his gloves in the Octagon any time soon.“I will be in the UFC for as long as I have the hunger to be the champion. I still like to train and I still have the hunger and the want to be the champion.”
Make sure you catch the brand new #WHOATV documentary currently being filmed in the run up to Maunwa’s return to the Octogon. It’s yet to be titled so if you have ideas on what it should be called, all of your suggestions will be considered. Let me know via Twitter